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Informal sector workers, including those who are self-employed, are now able to access social security services through mobile phone technology.

The International Labour Organization [ILO], in partnership with the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF), Vodafone and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), launched the payment gateway of the mobile application M-Vatu, with the aim of making it easier for members to make direct contributions.

“With M-Vatu, it is now easier than ever to access VNPF services for self-employed workers through the click of a few buttons. Even our seasonal workers living abroad can start putting aside some of their income using their mobiles,” said the Minister of Finance and Economic Management, Honourable Johnny Koanapo, while officially launching the pioneering initiative in August 2021.

According to the 2020 ILO supported Vanuatu Workers Rapid Assessment on the impact of COVID-19:

  • Out of 84,859 employed workers in the country, 56,806 are informally employed (or 66.9 percent).
  • The incidence of informal employment is the highest in the agriculture, forestry and fishery sector (95.1 percent), followed by industry (62 percent) and the service sector (45.2 percent).
  • Informal employment among women is higher than that of men. Out of 38,223 employed women, 68.7 percent are in informal employment (or 26,242 persons), compared to 65.5 percent of men.
  • The trend of informal employment by educational attainment is aligned with the trend of employment in the informal sector, that is, the higher the educational attainment, the less likelihood of being in informal employment.

Parallel to the onset of COVID-19, Vanuatu was hit by category five Tropical Cyclone Harold, in April 2020, which affected more than half of the population. Damage and losses associated with TC Harold and COVID-19 were estimated at around US $617 million (61 percent of the 2020 GDP).

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